Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Classic Bully

I've been critical of the decision to allow China to host the olympics for quite a while, and everytime I read another story about the torch journeying around the world, my reasons are only confirmed.

Over at Big Lizards, Sachi has a long post documenting some of the recent shenanigans committed in China's name by protesters. It seems that when countries would not allow China's "secret" police to "guard" the torch as it went, they called their foreign nationals to action, fomenting them to violent demonstrations.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Video Game Stuff

Why? Because I'm a huge nerd with lots of time on my hands, that's why. I haven't written much about video games since the new Smash Bros. was released, so I thought I'd toss a couple of things in.

Mario Kart
It's hard to write a review about such an iconic game. If you own a Wii, you either know about this series or you don't. After so many years and so many iterations, you've either played it and enjoyed it or you haven't.

That said, I do have some thoughts on this new version.

The game is just as brutal and unforgiving as it has been in the recent past. I find it quite frustrating playing through the single player campaigns; I'm a fine driver, pretty decent if I do say so myself. Yet it's horrible to even attempt the higher difficulty races, just because the computer devastates you with an endless barrage of items. There's not much more infuriating than seeing that finish line in front of you and getting hit with a blue shell.

The game is still fun, though. While I'm not excited about paying $15 for pieces of plastic, the wheel really does feel comfortable and natural for playing the game. I haven't been online yet, so I can't comment on how well that mode works. The bikes are an interesting addition as well, though I'm not sure they're a huge deal.

Cosmetically, the game is nice. One of my favorite "small touches" added to the game are the Miis who populate the race courses. For example, they can be in the audience, or on the interstate track they work the tollbooths.

Things they got wrong? Unlockable content. It's very frustrating to know how many more characters and karts there are, but they can only be won by beating the most infuriatingly difficult portions of the single player game. That's not keeping with the multiplayer fun introduced by Double Dash.

Also, there are lots of courses that are taken straight from previous games. I dislike this trend; if they spent the energy making new courses instead of bringing old ones up-to-date, they would have a much richer game. As it is, it feels a bit lazy and recycled.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village
This one is interesting. The Good: Lots of puzzles and riddles, classic or otherwise, as well as some classic adventure gaming and excellent animation.

The Bad: Classic adventure gaming. As in, use the stylus to tap everything in sight and hope that something turns up. Bleh. Also, there is no soft reset feature, which is a problem for perfectionists (such as myself).

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Yeah, more on this. What can I say, I've been playing it a lot since it was released? There's only a few things to criticize at the moment: Difficulty and lack of variety.

Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty good at this game. I've met no one who can completely shut me down in person, and online I typically lose only because of lag. I preface this with such bravado because the computer in this game is ridiculously difficult at the highest levels. I understand that programmers often make the game cheat to some degree or another to increase the difficulty level, but what on earth is the limit on this? I like to play games like this to completion, and the increase in difficulty on this one makes that a nearly impossible goal.

The lack of variety is more of a whine than anything. Yes, there were characters I thought they should have included in the game that they didn't. More of my thoughts on this, though, are what they could have done with the characters that they didn't.

For example, they included two different Links this time: Twilight Princess Link and Wind Waker Link. Rather than making them veritable carbon-copies of each other, as well as previous Links, why didn't they take advantage of their pedigrees? Why couldn't TP Link transform into his wolf form? Why couldn't WW Link use his baton to channel weather powers in battle? It seems like a lack of creativity that such options weren't taken advantage of. I could go on, but I think the point is clear.

That's my $0.02 on those varied topics, for what it's worth.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Making things Wright

Today's issue of the Chicago Tribune had a lot of articles about the relationship between Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Of course, the paper officially defended Sen. Obama and continued to promote his campaign for President. However, after reading so many articles about the matter, I've come to one conclusion: Nobody writing for this newspaper either understands, or chooses to acknowledge, the real reason Rev. Wright is such an issue.

The constant refrain is that things Rev. Wright says "may be considered 'controversial,'" as if he were just guilty of saying things people didn't want to hear. Others tried to make the problem about Wright's "lack of patriotism," and his "God d**m America" statements, particularly in attributing them to Obama. That is, of course, a problem, but it's not the heart of the situation.

The real problem is that Rev. Wright buys into the most outlandish of paranoid conspiracy mongering regarding the US government, and preached it from his pulpit. This includes examples such as his declaration that the US government created AIDS in order to commit genocide against minorities, or that it gives crack and other drugs to inner city minorities in order to . . . well, does it matter why? In addition to all of this, Wright is part of a movement of theologians who are essentially the black version of the KKK, at least philosophically. When you credit theologians who declare that the only God they can believe in is one who is only for blacks, and that this God must always be seeking to destroy the white oppressor . . . that is a severe problem. This isn't even going anywhere near the offense Christians ought to be taking at such a perversion of their beliefs.

Here is where it starts to get slippery: So many people will acknowledge at least the most venial of Wright's sins, but then question how it has any relevance to Obama and his campaign. I must state unequivocally that this association completely disqualifies Obama for being President of the United States.

There's an old saying (I don't recall the source anymore) that once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but three times is enemy action. Barack Obama sought out Wright. He has sat in the man's church for twenty years, and has referred to him as a mentor and a spiritual guide. Everything about this relationship indicates that it is more than just a casual acquaintance. What does this say about the judgment of a man who has been running on exactly that? I find it impossible that this kind of talk only recently cropped up at Trinity UCC, or that Obama never heard anything of the sort in twenty years of church membership. That kind of cop-out just strains credulity in a silly way. It either means that Obama's church membership was always a political expediency, or that he didn't care about such insanity from the pulpit. Either way, it reflects poorly on him, and makes his two very different speeches about Wright very opportunistic. It shows him to be just another weaselly politician willing to say whatever sounds right at the time to get elected.

That is why Rev. Wright matters. That is why Barack Obama is unfit to be our next President. It is just a tragedy that people are either unable or unwilling to accept it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Religious news you can appreciate

With all the talk of Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright, you might not have seen this, but the United Methodist Church has been meeting this week for its General Conference. Despite the long, slow slide into liberal unorthodoxy that the leadership of the church has been making over the last several decades, the conference maintained its position that homosexual behavior is "incompatible with Christian teaching."

This is good news, though the war is far from over. Sometimes I wonder how the UMC became so infested with those who would put liberal claptrap and liberation theology, as well as their own power, ahead of the actual purposes of the church, such as the gospel and missions.

Whatever the case may be, this development is encouraging. For now.

Hat tip: Dr. Mohler and Mark Hemingway

Grand Theft Retort

I write about the various musings of Dr. Albert Mohler from time to time, so I hope you won't mind if I bring him up again. Earlier in the week, Dr. Mohler dedicated his daily radio program to discuss the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. As you can imagine, he didn't have much good to say about it. How convenient for this post, then, that he condensed the program into a blog post.

There's a lot for me to agree with Dr. Mohler regarding this subject. I can't really defend the content of GTA games, as I'd never play them myself. Games where the goal is to act criminally do not sit well with me. Anti-heroes are not what I would consider to be enjoyable escape.

That out of the way, Dr. Mohler makes a lot of mistakes in how he approaches this subject generally. While he acknowledges that these games are clearly meant for adults and not for children or teens, he seems to place equal blame on both the parents who buy these games for their children and on the creators for making the game in the first place. This is just indefensible. Should we not create things for adults only for the risk that children will be given access to it by the irresponsible? Should we ban the Bible at the risk of children reading about Lot and his many adventures?

Additionally, Dr. Mohler never explicitly comes out against video games in general, but his thematic approach is to deem them "inappropriate" at best. As in, "What responsible adult would waste their time with such things when there are other important matters to be dealt with?" This is a trend I hear a lot, and it's quite annoying. So many people tend to treat any form of entertainment with disdain, as if you're wasting your life by enjoying anything of the sort and good Christians would be better off reading the Bible than getting bogged down in that junk.

The problem is that so many people selectively apply these things. Video games are bad for you, but television is okay. Movies are bad, but literature is just fine. Card games are evil, but board games are fun for all! Take your pick, someone has argued against or for any of the above.

I can't defend people who do anything obsessively, especially when it gets in the way of real obligations and healthy lifestyle choices, but this vendetta against video games in general is misguided. There is nothing unbiblical about video games. Even if you consider it a waste of time to play them, that is your opinion. People can certainly enjoy them while maintaining a healthy balance in their life.